The long road to a refund is finally over for nearly a dozen Steve Harvey fans who purchased tickets to party with the comedian at his 2020 Steve Harvey Sand & Soul Festival in the Dominican Republic.
“I’m excited to say I did receive my refund, $2,592 from the Steve Harvey Group, [and] thank you for all your help,” said Tracey Lowe in a video sent to NBC 5 Responds.
But it didn’t come easy.
The weekend getaway, slated for Sept. 3-7, 2020, was officially canceled on Aug. 28. But fans’ requests for refunds began long before that date, when the coronavirus pandemic prevented everyone from traveling.
“Everyone who is requesting a refund, who has paid money for this trip for 2020 should be entitled to a refund,” said Gail Shakir, who paid $2,506 for the weekend getaway.
After all, an email from Sand & Soul organizers dated April 2, 2020, stated: “In the unlikely case that the event has to be cancelled due to COVID-19, we will be alerting you all no later than 60 days prior to the event, and at that time all payments made into your Sand & Soul Account for room packages, excursions, event tickets and upgrades will be refunded to your original form of payment.”
There was then an apparent change of heart: Organizers sent a follow-up email on Aug. 28 stating, “instead any money that a customer has paid into their 2020 trip, will be held as a credit for future travel to Sand & Soul in 2021.”
“Why can't he just give everybody who provided the money, down payment and deposit, their money back?” asked Pamela McGhee, who wanted her $2,316 refunded.
It turned out to be a nearly-$24,000 question for 10 fans who reached out to NBC 5 Responds for help.
Their months of emails to the company went unanswered. So too did ours, until we heard from Steve Harvey Global COO Brandon Williams back in September. Williams thanked NBC 5 Responds for bringing the matter to his attention and pledged to ensure “… that the individuals that are due refunds, will be made whole.”
He told NBC 5 Responds a third-party vendor organized the Sand & Soul festival, and -- without revealing the name of that vendor to NBC 5 Responds -- said refunds would soon be underway.
However, months passed, and weekly email updates from the ticketholders became a broken record: “Still nothing in my bank account,” they wrote over and over again.
Then finally, around the same time Steve Harvey posted videos on Instagram showing him wintering in Dubai and St. Bart’s, our viewers’ summer vacation funds started to reappear.
“I received my refund from Steve Harvey and his team; thank you NBC 5 and Illinois Attorney General’s office,” Veronica told NBC 5 Responds, referring to the office of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
The attorneys general in Illinois and in Georgia, where Harvey’s company is based, say they also want to hear from affected fans.
“Attorney General Raoul’s Consumer Fraud Bureau worked to mediate the eight complaints we received from consumers who purchased vacation packages or held tickets to the 2020 Sand and Soul Festival, and was able to secure full refunds for those consumers, said Tori Joseph, a spokesperson for the Illinois Attorney General’s office. “We encourage any Illinois consumer who sought but was denied a refund for this festival to contact our office with a complaint.”
NBC 5 Responds has learned that the Georgia attorney general also has pending complaints against Sand and Soul organizers and has launched an inquiry.
NBC 5 Responds reached out to Harvey’s representatives about the attorneys general getting involved but did not get a response.
“Without you, I would have never [have] gotten a full refund. Big shout out to WMAQ NBC Chicago. Yeah!” said Shakir, whose $2,506 refund brings the total amount of Sand & Soul refunds secured by NBC 5 Responds to $23,739.32.